U.S. EPA in Montana has results back on six of the bulk samples run on potentially asbestos-contaminated woodchips at former Stimson Lumber site in Libby

LOS ANGELES , August 31, 2011 () – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials in Montana have received back results for six of the nine bulk samples they have run on woodchips from the former Stimson Lumber site in Libby to test for asbestos contamination, KAJ News reported on Aug. 31.

Bulk samples of the chips were re-submitted in early August after woodchips at the site, tested using a qualitative method, were found to have an unknown level of contamination.

Now EPA is testing the chips using a quantitative method, to establish the amount of asbestos in the samples. Two of the six samples EPA got back tested positive for asbestos, but according to EPA’s Mike Cirian the levels were very low.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus asked for an investigation into the contaminated scrap piles at the mothballed sawmill in response to an Associated Press (AP) story last month that described how the woodchips and bark had been widely used as landscaping materials, AP reported on July 19.

In a July 14 letter to Baucus, the EPA admitted it had first found out about the sales through an Oct. 2007 report on asbestos at the mill site, that it had found asbestos in samples from the piles in 2007 but had never established how much. The EPA is acting now to try to evaluate the health risk.

According to the July 19 AP article, Asbestos from a W.R. Grace mine in Libby has killed some 400 people. The prevalence of timber mill scraps around Libby has stoked fears of recontamination notwithstanding a US$370 million government clean up program.

The primary sources of this article are KAJ News, Kalispell, Montana, Aug. 31, 2011, and the Associated Press on July 19, 2011.

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